Apr 19 2010

SNF part 2

The second day at SNF was much like the same.   Talk to friends and checking out vendors.  It was a beautiful mild summer day with a nice breeze which was very pleasant.

I spent the afternoon talking to Chrissi (of the Cozy Girls).  She is such an interesting person and as always conversations with her sparks new thoughts and ideas for me to persue


 The promanade was not very crowded.  I think the new parking charges ($5/car), the economy and the high ticket prices seemed affect this year’s attendance.  The number of planes seemed less and I heard some of the venders elected not to show up this year.  I still enjoy the event as it is close to Charleston and I really enjoy my visit with Ed and Sue Richards.

It was nice to return home after a quick 2.2 hr flight from Tampa with all the azaleas in bloom!

Apr 14 2010

SNF Day 1

The trip from Charleston to Tamp was great and for the first time I had a nice tail wind.  My speed averaged around 160 knot.    Sue met me at her house and the EZ looked really nice sitting in their hangar.

Ed has a absolutely gorgeous Cozy 4 with a forward opening canopy which we took over to the show.   I really want to copy his design when I build my ultimate Cozy 540

Had to stop by and visit my friends at Emag which builds the electronic ignition I have in my bird.  It has been working flawlessly for the last 3 years.

Unfortunately, not a lot of canards showed up today.  3 Cozy’s and 3 LongEZ’s.   This is a nice shot of Vance’s Cozy3, Scott Carters beautiful stretched Cozy 540, and Ed’s Cozy 4.

Ed looking at his next airplane… a HUGE CompAir.

Tomorrow I’ll fly my bird over to the show.  Unfortunately, Ed has to go back to work, so I’ll be flying solo .

Apr 12 2010

SNF Bound

Finished work on MY plane today (Tweety) to get ready for my annual pilgramige to Tampa and then the Sun-N-Fun air show in Lakeland, FL.   Every year I stay with the Ed and Sue Richards (they have a Cozy 4).  Ed lives in a fly-in community in a terrific house with a detached hanger.  It is SO NICE to just fly in to his airport, taxi up to the hangar and then kick back in his pool.   I usually just  fly to and from SNF in 15 minutes vice 1.3 hrs by car fighting traffic. 

The battery and a sensor was replaced in Tweety.  I also did some work on the nose strut.  The casting angle  was slightly negative (aft sweep) contributing to an very infrequent front wheel shimmy.  It is amazing how quickly a wheel shimmy can screw your plane up.  

The first time, it broke my nose wheel completely off (I had the old thin casting Brock fork).   Seeing the nose wheel flying past your plane when you touch down  it makes for an interesting, but non-eventful landing.   Had to rent a car for the remainder of my trip.  The funny thing is when the FAA stopped by to check the plane out (a requirement since damage was reported by the tower), the only thing they commented on was my prop.  I had a note to “IMMEDIATELY GROUND THE PLANE” due to a “cracks” on the prop and do not fly with it again until I contacted the manufacturer to see it if was ok for flight….   I wrote them a note back to tell them “I am the manufacturer and it deemed OK for flight”.   Didnt hear anther word from them.  Gotta love experimental aviation!

The second mayor shimmy broken all the AN3 bolts holding it to the strut.  Then while taxing to the ramp the whole wheel assembly fell off. 

The third time, a quick 3 second shimmy rolled the wheel over enough to completely destroy the wheel casting!   I had to drive home from a close by airport to get my spare wheel (isnt it great to have spare parts)!

Since this was such an infrequent event, I never really put all the first two events in the same context as the wheel casting issue.    Now it makes sense that they were all related.  A bit of trouble shooting and research was done and I found I had a slight bit of a ‘back’ tilt instead of a ‘forward’ tilt. 

After adjusting the front strut (all I could get was completely vertical orientation), I found I can no longer fully retract the wheel into the wheel well.  The crank mechanism hits the stop before the strut is  fully retracted into the wheel well.    When I return from SNF, I’ll take the wheel assembly off, reset it to a forward tilt angle and re-adjust the retraction travel.  I didnt want to do all this before I left since Murphy’s Law might get me…. “if something can go wrong it will go wrong”.    

Tomorrow I head south with a tail wind (very rare) and a free pass to the show.  Life is good……

Apr 09 2010

Headset Bushings

Today was a short day.  I had to make some mod’s on the laminater (for lettering) per Tech Support of Pulsar.  It should work a little better now.   

I made the new passenger comm panel (the original was sized wrong).    I checked the panel’s resistance (made of carbon fiber) and sure enough, it is VERY conductive which is a problem for the audio system.  Since the headset jacks are grounded, it means there is a real possibly of a ground loop from the mic to the headset ground via the carbon.  

This is the same issue which plauges an alum plane.  Many pilots find there is a bit of noise (whine, strobes, etc) in their headset caused by ground loops.     As owners started upgrading to carbon and aluminum panels few pay attention to the ground loop issue and are surprised to find their new system has more noise than their old setup.   The owner did not take into account the jacks which were mounted in electrically isolating fiberglass, now are mounted in carbon or alum and are creating a ground loop and noise.

In order to prevent comm noise,  a bushing and washer was machined out of delron to electrically isolate the mic and headset jacks from the carbon to eliminate the ground loop.

The new panel and bushings.   I’ll letter it tomorrow.  Now that I know what I am doing with the lettering kit, it should only take 20 min or so.

Apr 07 2010

Cylinders Work

Cylinders #1 and #3 were installed today.  Had a bit of trouble with the push rods (there is a specific procedure to measuring and testing them)but in the end everything went together fine and all measurements are within specification.

Pat had the high compression pistons coated with a solid lubricant (they look black)  and the crown of the pistion ceramic coated.  It will give the engine a little more power.  He also had the new cylinder flow ported.  I checked them out and it looks nicely done.

The push rods were painted crackle black which makes them stand out a bit.  Once the baffles are installed, most of the push rod tubes will not be visible.

The inlet ducts were also painted crackle black.  I wanted them to stand out and not look like regular glass.  Yesterday, when I microed fuel probe area, I also filled the inlet ducts to smooth them out a little prior to painting.

The Stbd duct.  I like how the gold rivets stand out on the black… 

I am not going to install #2 and #4 cylinders until next Monday.  My buddy Tony wants to learn how to replace a cylinder, so we will do it together in a week or so.    It will cost him lunch at Aunt Bee’s.

The fuel probe installation has been microed and sanded.  A little paint and you’ll never know they are there.

Apr 06 2010

Fuel probes are installed!

Today,  I reached a few personal milestones by shipping off the instrument panel and installing two capacitance fuel probes of my design.      There is a a bit more to this story so get ready for a long read. 

I completed everything left to do on the instrument panel, wrote the testing and modification procedure for Pat, then shipped it to LA by FedEx 3 day.  P1 Prototypes (Pats composite fabrication company) has some shop time available (by his top technician) and he will personally build and attach radio brackets, leg opening flanges and clear coat the panel to my specifications.   It will come back ready to install.  How cool is that?

For years, while visiting airshows, I always checked out vendors looking and comparing various remote capacitance fuel probes (because I wanted some in my bird).   They were all very simple, small and reliable, and VERY EXPENSIVE ($150- 175 each) and I am too dam cheap to spend mucho dinero for a simple product which doesnt even include the electronics.   Ouch!   A few months ago I had an idea to make a probe setup specifically designed for a canard installation.   Finally, a fuel probe which would work in a non-Cozy canard.

Non-Cozy canards are built in way which does not lend itself to the installation of capacitance fuel probes (CFP) .    Cozy’s have a nice fairing forward of firewall which can be used to cover and hide the probe installation.   I have seen a few attempts to install probes in LongEZ’s, but have never liked the final look of the avaliable products.   Either they are puck type which is harder to seal, or they are WAY too tall to hide.    The only advantage to these systems is that they are removable after installation.    Mine are not, but what can go wrong with a tube and with a wire in it?

Initially the design started with a probe.   A proper installation requires a very short probe less than 3/8″ tall.   The shortest probe I have seen was at least 1.5″ tall (or a puck at 1″ tall).  This probe’s height is sized to fit into the space of the 10mm foam core of the strake.   After many designs a working prototype was finished.

Less than 3/8″ tall it can be easily and quickly installed.  Is is completely invisible after installation and fits nicely in the foam core space.

A test cell was built to check the height dimension,  the dielectric constant of  two epoxies and the accuracy of the voltage output for two common fuels I use,  MOGAS and AVGAS.

Next, some electronics are needed to make these probes work.

I knew Princeton Technology built capacitance electronic fuel probe modules.   They build puck styles and other various remote probe styles and has a great reputation.   At the SNF airshow last year,  I talked to  Todd Stehouwer (the owner of Princeton) and finally convinced him to let me help him.   I could easily see a wide open market for an EZ probe system.    As many canards owners rewire their canards to install improved electronic systems such as Grand Rapid, Dyson, ECI, the market was wide open for a new product line.   All that was needed is Todd’s help to develop an EZ specific electronics product so he could sell product to make mucho dinero   Why did I do this?   Because I freaken needed some for myself  and someday I might need his help.  “Pay it forward”!

After many months of emails, calls, a few miss steps, Todd finally completed the engineering for the module needed allow this probe to function.    He used the test cell I sent him (MGS with AVGAS) for setup, calibration and testing.    The nice thing about his electronics module is that it has FIVE calibrations point to fine tune the electronics to your fuel tank profile and can be used with either AVGAS or MOGAS (you have to recalibrate it for the dielectric of the fuel).   

Well, call me an over cautious engineer, but I always have to check everything out before I put my cra*k, oops, foot out there to get stepped on.    I want to be sure I would be as happy with this design as if someone else presented me with a similar design for evaluation.

Here is a couple of issues of concern to me.

1.  Will fuel resistance of either WEST or MGS  (two common epoxies) work for this application?  I know MGS is multi-fuel safe.  A quick call to WEST Tech Support confirmed  WEST resin is fuel safe for AVGAS or MOGAS (NO Ethanol) fuels.   My main concern was the possiblity builders might no have MGS available, but most of us have WEST handy (or can easily go to a local boating store to buy a pint).  Epoxy/fuel check …good.

2.  Next does the epoxy affect the overall capacitance of the system?   Epoxy is a dielectric.  Is the dielectric (hence functionality) a factor and/or epoxy dependent?  I built two test cell to evaluate.  One using WEST and one using MGS epoxy. 

After testing by Jack Wilhelmson and myself,  we found the epoxy made no difference to a calibrated probe in AVGAS or MOGAS.  Epoxy/Capacitance  check …good.

3.  Does the OVERALL system work reliably?  A test rig was set up and after gathering about 40 data points, I found overall the system works very well.  Voltage output for different heights were exactly repeatable about 85% of the time.  Sometime, it would just be off just a small amount 0.1-0.2 V or so, but no surprises.  I dont even know if that small a voltage would make a difference on a display.   This could be partly due to the difficulty of measuring the capacitance on a 7.75″ probe (the height of the strake) or the accuracy of the VOM.    Todd and Jack also tested the electronics.    Accuracy check.  …good.

Here you see the probe sitting in MOGAS at “FULL”  tank  level in my home test rig.  The voltage shows is 4.96v.  

To calibrate the system, just fill your tank to your personal “empty” level …press “SET” to lock in “Empty” point.  Fill the tank to the 1/4 level (or fuel gals)… press “SET”.  Repeat for 1/2, 3/4 and FULL.    Took just a few moments. 

Before you read further be warned, in my opinion everything in life has Ying, Yang….. the Black and White,  Good and Bad sides.  Here is this probe’s good/bad side.

The BAD:
1.  This is a PERMANENT install.  Everything is glassed into place.  You’ll never get it out.  Be smart and careful with the installation.
2.  If it stops working, you’ll have to abandon the exiting probe and install one in a new location.  

1.  It is the only probe/electronic system specifically designed and built for a canard aircraft (Varieze’s to Cozy 4)
2.  The electronics are easily removable/serviceable (there is a quick disconnect on the fuel probe wire).
3.  It is VERY easy to install in a few hours.  Installing two probes took me around 2 hrs and I didnt know what the heck I was doing!

I have done my best to ensure this solution will work.    I wanted to test everything and be as absolutely confident as possible before I spent the time installing it.   Before I recommend it with complete confidence,  I  still need to complete the wiring of the plane, calibrate the system with 100LL and gather many data points comparing the sight glasses and electronic output over an extended period of time .  

If you are a experimenter like me who likes to try new things (testing indicates this system will work) then go for your own installation.  If you are a timid soul, then I would recommend waiting until I start flying this bird and get some real life data before thinking of installing it.

The Installation:
Now the fun part.  The entire process took about 2 hrs start to finish.  

Measure and cut a hole in the outer skin of the plane.

Remove the foam to the inner skin.  Sand the inner skin.


Drill a 3/16″  hole  horizontal below the Longerons, into the foam below the upper skin.  Fish the wires though the hole. 

When I drilled the holes for the wires, I drilled from the cabin to the strake and was afraid I would drill into the tank.   Being careful, I angled the drill a bit too much and punched a small hole in the upper skin.  No big deal.  Better than drilling into the tank.   A little filler will make for an easily fix. 

Were I to do this again, I would drill from the hole into the cabin.   Just take some welding wire, flatten and sharpen the end into a flexible drill.  Insert your home made drill into the foam from the hole side and you can easily bore through the exterior and interior glass sides.  Using the pilot hole you can then follow it with a real drill from the cabin side….. NO CHANCE  of drilling into the fuel tank!!

Lastly, use the razor knife to cut a square opening in the glass  inner skin of the strake for the probe tube.  The razor knife is used to prevent the possibility of  getting some chips into the tank which wound invariably happen if I had drilled a hole.   After you cut the 3 sides of the hole,  just bend the tab up and break it off….  no chips.

A nice hole, all sanded and ready for glassing.  Attach the wires to the probe.

Mix some wet flox, and butter the bottom of the probe, install it into the tank and then fill the entire cavity with even wetter flox.  The probe/wires are completely encapsulated (potted) into the tank with wet flox…. did I say it is permanent?   In my mind there is no possible chance of fuel leakage. 


After a bit of reflection, I could see a few variation to an installation….

IF you DID NOT wish to immediately repaint, just cover the area around the hole (to protect your paint), cut the hole and install as shown.  When cured, remove the protective tape/paper for an unblemished paint job.   Make a painted Alum cover (like wing bolt covers) and RTV it over the probe hole.    Save the painting till later.

IF you wish to immediately repaint the area,  first mark the opening, take a sander and feather the micro back 1/2″, THEN cut the hole.   When floxing the probe incorporate 1 layer of BID in to the repair.    After curing cover the area with micro and sand every thing flush.  I doubt you would even have to put a second coat of micro on it.  Then paint. 

If  you are interested in purchasing the electronics call Grand Rapids Technology and ask for the Princeton CANARD capacitance electronics box.  Princeton is selling the CANARD module (with 5 calibration points) for $95 each .  

I am considering selling the probes for $40 each if anyone is interested.    You can easily make your own…  I did it.   I thought about detailing the construction of the probe, but decided against.  I know it is a few $$$, but I’ll be more confident they will work correctly for others if they are an exact copy of mine which has been tested.  By the time you buy the materials, have them shipped to you, machine the parts in a lathe, etc, it is not worth your time and expense.  I certainly wouldnt have gone though all this shit if I could have just bought a system off the shelf for a few bucks.

One afternoon while Todd and I were talking and trying to find a suitable name to order this specific electronics modification, Todd suggested calling them the “Nick Ugolini” electronics.  It is the name Todd jokingly gave them due to the frequently calls I made to get it working.     I thought it might be a bit to pretentious so I thought it best to decline…. 

Am I humble sort of guy or what?


Apr 02 2010

Talking To Myself

I have decided to start wearing an Bluetooth headset all the time.  You see, I have started to enjoy talking to my self.  My grandmother used to do it (how weird I thought).  She would carry on  a conversation with an imaginary friend and seemed to enjoy it.   In my generation (from the viewpoint of a young child) only mental ill people carried on complete conversations with themselves on a regular basis.    For years, this concept has firmly been embedded in my psyche.

Strangely, I am now finding that an imaginary friend is a terrific friend!  Doesn’t bother you much, never calls, thinks you are one heck of a smart guy  and good looking too!   Keeps your confidences and is always ready for a good chat.

The trouble with imaginary friends is normally you end up just talking into the air with no one around.      Ten years or so ago, whenever I noticed someone talking to themselves it brought reminisces of my grandmother.   How weird I thought until I noticed they had a wired headset wire connected to a cell phone or a Crackberry. 

“Now”, everyone just wears their fancy Bluetooth headset, having a pleasant conversation with someone over a cell phone saving their brain from supposedly dangerous cell phone radiation.   My generations view of talking to ones self  is out, long live the physiologically brain safe  Bluetooth.

“Now”,  everyone has gotten used to this “talking to ones self ” look and some take great pride in their Bluetooth appliance.  Big, small, red, black, gray, silver.    I have even seen some custom painted.  

“Now”,  it is quite normal to see young and old, talking to some imaginary friend who just happens to be real at the other end of a Bluetooth conversation.

In my case, I’ll use the Bluetooth headset to eliminate the real friend and have  terrific conversation with my  imaginary friend.   I’ll look hip and contemporary with my over sized Bluetooth turned off, stuck prominently in my ear, chatting way and looking quite normal for all the “Now” generation to see ……..

Apr 01 2010

Instument Panel Graphics

The instrument panel is now lettered.  It was ABSOLUTELY the most frustrating work I have done on the plane so far.  I spent tons of time messing with it and a few calls to tech support figuring out how to use the lettering system from Pulsar Pro FX .

When I first started, I only had about a 10% success rate after many hours or trial and errors.  After I re-reading the instructions a few times and changing my techniques, the success when up to about 60%.  A LOT more failures and I finally figured out how to make it work which was not covered in the instructions (and I surprised tech support with what I was doing) and now I am almost 100% successful.  What a PITA but it is finally done!

After lettered everything and getting it ready for shipment, my tape accidentally touched part of the graphics and removed the boarder!  Fu** 

So I made a new image and removed the damaged one and replaced it in about 15 minutes.  Cool!

The new graphic is in place!

I am going to try some clear spray sealer on a few test pieces to check the results of some abrasive tests.  I want to make sure the graphics are preserved until they get completely sealed in clear coat.